All Elite, Bay Bay.
It’s not just the clever catch phrase emblazoned on the front of Adam Cole’s shirt when he made his highly anticipated AEW debut on Sunday night — it’s the wave of American wrestling’s future.
All Out 2021 was, arguably, All Elite Wrestling’s best ever PPV, with the flagship event delivering on every match in one of the best cards it has put out since its inception. If the wrestling quality isn’t enough of an indicator, in just a few short years of the company’s existence, owner Tony Khan is doing something that any normal, sane, well-functioning business does: Listening to its customers.
The fans wanted more, and Khan and AEW has given them more: while CM Punk was Khan’s white whale, the debuts of Cole, Bryan Danielson and Ruby Soho on Sunday night showed that, in fact, you can’t have too much of a good thing. With AEW’s roster already loaded with talent at different stages of their career, snatching stars and signing proven free agents from You-Know-Who means that its reputation for providing creative avenues and building a reputation for being a great place to hone your wrestling skills and showcase your craft is completely substantiated.
Of all the impressive signings AEW has made since the beginning of the year, none of the recent debuts — not Christian Cage’s or CM Punk’s or Bryan Danielson’s or Malakai Black’s — may mean as much as Adam Cole’s, though.
Cole was a guy who was being groomed to be “The Man” (sorry, Becky Lynch) on the main WWE roster. His NXT run, which started in 2017, was among the best, most well-protected and dominant runs in the brand’s history, both as the leader of a faction and a single’s star. Consistently at the top of the card, Cole was teetering on the edge of the main WWE roster (where NXT careers go to die).
That’s why his debut means just as much, if not more, than any of the others: Cole jumped ship during the prime of his career, leaving a company in which he was given the world (and likely promised more), spurning the idea of being a main-brand “superstar” to join an upstart group of wrestling rebels who are taking a sledgehammer to the industry.
Does it help that his best friends (The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega) and his girlfriend (Dr. Britt Baker, DMD) are AEW stalwarts? Of course it does. But sports entertainers have stayed in ‘E for less over the years, and the rise of AEW and the legitimate avenue it offers for professional wrestlers to be, well, professional wrestlers, is turning heads across the industry. The signings prove that.
And the best thing about professional wrestlers being professional wrestlers? It’s great for starved wrestling fans, who — contrary to the propaganda fed to you by the former ‘Fed — have always held the power in wrestling.
The same can’t be said for purveyors of sports entertainment, which sells out for TV deals, shareholders and bean counters, telling you everything is fine while stuff blows up behind them, like Leslie Nielsen in “The Naked Gun.”
To be fair, the skepticism for AEW wasn’t without merit. Over the last 20 years or so, American wrestling promoters have routinely overpromised and under-delivered. Whether it was NWA: TNA’s once-promised golden horizon of a new era of wrestling in the early 2000s or the independent scene that was secretly great but just couldn’t grasp mainstream attention, AEW and Khan deserve a lot of credit for building a domestic company that delivers on everything wrestling should and can be in 2021. That could not have been made clearer on Sept. 5.
In simpler terms, Sunday night’s All Out solidified and proved one thing: All Elite Wrestling is truly all in.
AEW All Out match grades, results
It was a loaded All Out card that went, well, all out. Here’s how all the matches graded out:
Miro vs. Eddie Kingston, TNT Championship match: 4.25 stars
Miro has been absolute money as TNT Champion, and Kingston was next in line to be “redeemed” by God’s favorite champion. The match was a knock-down, drag-out fight that lived up to everything you’d think a couple of heavy hitters like Kingston and Miro should deliver.
Oh, and he did something that Eddie Kingston requested on Friday night’s episode of “Rampage:”
Who will be next to challenge for Miro’s throne? Who knows? But whoever knocks him off is going to have a tough, tough task in filling the boots he’s currently wearing as TNT champ.
Jon Moxley vs. Satoshi Kojima: 3.75 stars
Jon Moxley is living the wrestling dream. The guy shows up, whoops ass, decides he wants to wrestle a Japanese legend every now and then, win belts in other promotions, and leaves.
But that’s not to say that Moxley is phoning it in, because he’s not: No matter what he’s up to, his character makes sense and his matches deliver.
His match with Japanese legend Satoshi Kojima was about what you’d expect out of the two. The real money is what’s next for Mox, with another Japanese legend, Minoru Suzuki, making an appearance after the match, planting Moxley with a piledriver after a short exchange.
Dr. Britt Baker, DMD vs. Kris Statlander, AEW Women’s Championship match: 4.5 stars
Winner: Dr. Britt Baker, DMD
Baker’s championship reign is really taking shape and living up to hype as she continues to lead the AEW women’s division from pole position.
While Baker’s gotten all of the hype and love, this match was about as much as Statlander as it was Dr. Baker: the “Galaxy’s Greatest Alien” was sorely missed in the women’s division while she was nursing and recovering from a torn ACL, and her match with Baker on Sunday night reminded everyone just how good she is.
The match was one of the best women’s matches in the company’s short history, and with the division really rounding into form, there’s going to be no shortage of talented women to try and take the belt from Baker moving forward.
The Young Bucks vs. the Lucha Brothers, AEW Tag Team Championship: 5 stars
Winner: The Lucha Brothers
With how absolutely stacked the AEW Tag Team division is, it was kind of difficult to see when the Young Bucks would lose the tag titles and who they would lose them to. The Lucha Brothers answered the bell on Sunday night and the two teams delivered a classic tag match that also will go down as one of the great cage matches of all time.
The Bucks’ reputation of delivering in big matches continued with an absolute banger of a cage match that had everything a cage match should: Brutality, high spots, blood, near-finishes and stuff you haven’t seen before.
The Young Bucks’ 300-plus day reign as tag champs came to a brutal and fitting end in a match that will be talked about for years to come.
Women’s casino battle royale: 3.5 stars
Winner: Ruby Soho
Battle royales are always difficult to book and harder to follow: The chaotic nature of the match can be tough for fans to watch, and trying to make sense of eliminations and psychology in real time is largely a losing proposition.
Ruby Soho making her debut as the surprise entrant to the battle royale and being one of the final two along with Thunder Rosa was the right call, though. Anna Jay, for however popular she is, needs some time to reheat as she comes back from injury. Tay Conti is on the precipice of women’s stardom and should be there soon. Nyla Rose has been near the top of the women’s division, but needs to give way for others for the time being.
Soho was in the unique position of being well known with a great reputation, offering instant credibility as a challenger for Dr. Baker’s championship.
Chris Jericho vs. MJF: 3.5 stars
There’s something about the Jericho-MJF feud that feels just about DOA now. Whether it was the Labours of Jericho that fizzled out at the end or the lack of focus on the Pinnacle and Inner Cirlce at large, it’s time for both guys to move onto other things.
While MJF and Jericho did their best to get the crowd into the match, it just wasn’t there until the restart after MJF thought he won, with Jericho winning promptly after that. Hopefully this leads to the ultimate end of the feud, which feels like it has overstayed its welcome just a bit.
CM Punk vs. Darby Allin: 3.75 stars
Winner: CM Punk
This match solely existed to get Punk’s feet wet once again in a wrestling ring, and that’s all it really needed to be. It wasn’t flashy or wild, and it didn’t have to be, either: The build to the match was short and face-on-face action doesn’t always translate to the best in-ring work.
Still, it showed that CM Punk can still go, even if the pace was down a bit. This bodes well for future Punk matches. There’s really not much to say beyond that.
Kenny Omega vs. Christian Cage, AEW World Championship: 4 stars
Christian Cage finally got the match that he said he wanted when he debuted at Revolution, challenging for the AEW World Championship match. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t super into the match, likely because of the predictable outcome of Omega winning.
Still, it was a consistent and very good match, with the consistent and very good Christian Cage delivering another top-tier performance. All the recent AEW debuts means Omega is going to have his hands full for a long time with challengers, especially so when they finally pull the trigger on the Hangman Page championship match fans are clamoring for.
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